Defense rests its case in Malheur Refuge trial

The trial began September 7

Judge Anna Brown presides over the trial of 7 defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)
Judge Anna Brown presides over the trial of 7 defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, October 3, 2016 (Sketch artist: Abigail Marble)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Noting the trial is “down to the last sands in the hourglass,” Judge Anna J. Brown heard back-and-forth about confidential informants used during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.

The defense rested its case Monday and the government completed its rebuttal case after calling 4 witnesses to the stand. Jury instructions are set to start Tuesday followed by closing arguments.

Early Monday the defense pressed the government about how many confidential sources the FBI paid to be at the refuge during the occupation. Judge Brown instructed the prosecution to come up with a written stipulation about both the number of FBI informants in the case and how many were at the refuge.

Of 9 informants at the refuge, 6 unidentified ones left by January 23, the prosecution said. Each of the 9 informants were reportedly there for various lengths of time.

Morning information pool coverage from The Oregonian and OPB

A man who goes by the alias John Killman was questioned by the defense about his time at the refuge. He testified he was at the refuge to teach firearms safety classes. He helped train defendant Jeff Banta in combat techniques, Banta’s lawyer said.

Prosecutors would not confirm whether Killman was working for the government while he was at the refuge. Judge Brown did not order the government to identify any of its sources, although 2 have already been named: Mark McConnell who drove Ammon Bundy when he was arrested along Hwy 395, and Terri Linnell, who testified she provided information to the FBI from the refuge, according to the Oregonian.

Trying to deflect the defense’s argument, prosecutors said their theory of the alleged conspiracy didn’t include information provided by any unidentified informants.

Judge Brown said she found little that was redacted about the FBI sources.

Federal Judge Anna J. Brown on the opening day of the trial for the 7 defendants in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation trial, September 13, 2016 (KOIN)
Federal Judge Anna J. Brown on the opening day of the trial for the 7 defendants in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation trial, September 13, 2016 (KOIN)

Still, she greatly limited what the prosecution could use in their rebuttal case and ruled the government could not call a rebuttal witness to testify about the Bunkerville, Nevada court orders.

Bunkerville is Cliven Bundy’s ranch that was the scene of an armed standoff in 2014.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge manager Chad Karges also testified in the prosecution’s rebuttal.

Complete coverage: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover

The quick backstory

On January 2, protesters marched through the streets of Burns in support of local ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond, who were ordered back to prison to complete their sentences for burning property on federal land. After the march, a group of people — led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy — took over the federally-owned Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

On January 26, the Oregon State Police and the FBI stopped 2 vehicles along Hwy 395. Inside the vehicles were the Bundy brothers, Shawna Cox, a few others and LaVoy Finicum, the de facto militia spokesperson. Finicum tried to get away from the police blockade and was shot to death as he reached inside his jacket toward his gun after driving into a snowbank.

Four people, including David Fry, held out at the refuge until February 11.

In all, more than 2 dozen people were arrested in connection with the takeover.